22/10/2010

$60 billion arms deal: a win-win solution for Obama

The Obama administration officially notified Congress of a contract of 60 billion arms sale with Saudi Arabia. This sale represents the largest arms deal ever concluded by the United States. It includes delivery of 84 new F-15 fighter jets, upgrades to 70 existing Saudi F-15s, 190 helicopters and a wide array of missiles and bombs, as well as accessories such as night-vision goggles and radar warning systems. Saudi Arabia committed to an immediate purchase of $ 30 billion, with the possibility of buying other $30 billion in the coming years.

Many commentators see in this sale a double benefit for the United States. At the security level on the one hand, it secures the Gulf’s oil reserves in strengthening the Saudi military position in the region and particularly towards Iran. On the other hand, such a contract can stimulate the arms industry in the United States.

Now, Congress has 30 days to oppose the project if it wants. For once, however, nobody has yet declared its intention to oppose the agreement, which is surprising vis-à-vis such an exceptional arms sale to an ally, but nevertheless a highly controversial one. Some members of Congress usually oppose this type of contract because it represents a potential threat to Israel. Two factors may explain their change of attitude. On the one hand, Israel itself has not objected to this agreement, maybe because he was reassured about the scope of the weapons sold, but also because it was interested to see the Iranian power counterbalanced. On the other hand, members of Congress are actively campaigning for the mid-term parliamentary elections and have little time to consider the proposals submitted to them.

But the contract may have its drawbacks, as explained by Stephen Zunes in the Huffington Post. He said the U.S. has not learned the lessons of the past since the fiasco in Iraq is rooted in a delivery of arms to Saddam Hussein’s Iraq to contain Iran. Moreover, arms of a rival power like Saudi Arabia will certainly effect of radicalizing Iran, as U.S. military interventions in two neighboring countries have been able to radicalize. Stephen Zunes points out further that this increased military budget, might conversely reduce Saudi aid to other Arab countries, and undermine the regional balance.

According to Jonathan Tepperman speaking in The Atlantic, the U.S. has changed its strategy vis-à-vis Iran, from a strategy of rollback to a strategy of containment, ie a policy “aimed at stopping Iran from getting nukes” to a policy » aimed at stopping Iran from using them »

Ultimately, the sale of American weapons will certainly be positive for the Obama administration with an outstanding contract for the arms industry and more pressure on the Republic of mullahs. Conversely, the regional balance will suffer from this agreement. The Middle East is now more than ever like a time bomb that intensive arming of Saudi Arabia is making even more flammable.

Nathalie Janne d’Othée